[Marxism] Non-subscribers on the Heinrich discussion

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Feb 17 17:31:21 MST 2013

More from S.Artesian:

"I am happy to accept Artesians points as they amount to a mere 
relabeling of what I say without change of semantic content. I am using 
the word value as synonymous with the time society must expend to 
purchase things from nature. When he says value I would say exchange 
value, this is a difference in terms without significance. Artesian 
accepts that abstract socially necessary labour is something that exists
outside of the commodity exchange relation."

is (unintentionally?) hilarious.  He's a clever one, that Cockshott, 
calling a substantive difference a "mere relabeling" as if the 
difference between wage-labor, labor-power as a commodity, labor-power 
as value-producing, labor-power as bought and sold for purposes of 
accumulation, and the labor process as a free association of producers, 
the labor process as the satisfaction and enhancement of needs and 
abilities in the very acts of production is merely a difference of 

Of course, socially necessary labor exists outside the commodity 
relation.    Socially necessary labor yielding value, creating a 
hierarchy of value, “more valuable” “less valuable” does not exist 
outside the commodity exchange relation.

Cockshott uses the word “value” as synonymous with the time society must 
expend to “purchase” things from nature because he cannot imagine any 
other relation save the value relation, where labor is performed by a 
specific class under specific social relations for the specific purpose 
of accumulation.  In doing this, Cockshott completely ignores, or 
rejects, the basis for Marx’s analysis of the labor process under 
capitalism:—that capital, value is a historically specific relation, 
organization of production, and that specific relation, of necessity 
must be abolished.   The “socially necessary labor” that exists under 
capitalism, is the socially necessary alienated labor, is the alienated 
expression of socially necessary labor where it, like use-value, is in 
fact circumscribed, deformed by exchange value, by the value form.   Now 
for periods, for some durations, the “socially necessary labor” under 
capitalism may in fact coincide with meeting the needs of/for the 
reproduction of the society.  And necessarily, there comes that point 
when the “socially necessary labor” under capitalism, cannot, must not.

“Socially necessary labor” under capitalism is the mechanism for 
distributing value, profit.  It is not the basis for meeting the needs 
of society.  Cockshott’s argument shares the same (mis) conceptions as 
(other) social-democratic/reformist/cross-class alliance 
“economics”—that because all societies confront the distribution of 
labor power across the spectrum of production to sustain themselves as 
societies, then the real solution to the problem reduces itself 
to.......the more equitable distribution of the products of the labor 
process, ignoring that these products are in fact commodities, and as 
such the production process is all about reproducing the class relations 
of the society.

In Cockshott’s schema, there is no need for abolition of value; no need 
for the abolition of capital; no need for the proletariat to abolish the 
condition of labor as the vector for exchange.  And as a consequence of 
this........then many things can qualify as socialism.  Stalin’s 5 year 
plans?  Socialism.  The Terror of the 1930s?  Necessary to socialism. 
Mao?  Socialism.  British Rail prior to the privatization?  Socialism. 
Britain, after WW2 and before... Heath?  About 1/3 socialist.  The 
National Health Service?  Socialism.

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